Serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is physically demanding, and military leaders have developed measures to ensure recruits are “mission-ready.” Unfortunately, a significant number of both first-time applicants and active military personnel do not meet this standard.

According to the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, a publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (2012; 18 [1], 7–11), the number-one reason for medical disqualification of first-time active duty applicants between 2004 and 2009 was exceeding the weight/body fat limit. What’s more, overweight and obesity have become increasingly common among active service members. The study reports that the rate of obese/overweight diagnoses among those serving more than tripled from 1998 (n = 25,766; 1.6%) to 2010 (n = 86,186; 5.3%).

What’s to blame for these high levels of overweight and obesity?

“The results of this analysis suggest that the U.S. military is significantly affected in many ways by the obesity epidemic among young adult Americans in general. For example, when not deployed or training, many service members live, shop and recreate in civilian communities. Fast food restaurants and physically passive recreational outlets (e.g., video games, television, movies, etc.) are ubiquitous in both military and civilian communities. ‘Nutritional fitness’ should be a priority of military medical and line leaders at every level.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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